90 Miles From Tyranny : FBI's spreadsheet puts a stake through the heart of Steele's dossier

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

FBI's spreadsheet puts a stake through the heart of Steele's dossier

Some in the news media have tried in recent days to rekindle their long-lost love affair with former MI6 agent Christopher Steele and his now infamous dossier.

The main trigger was a lengthy interview in June with the Department of Justice (DOJ) inspector general, which some news media outlets suggested meant U.S. officials have found Steele, the former Hillary Clinton-backed political muckraker, to be believable.

“Investigators ultimately found Steele’s testimony credible and even surprising,” Politico crowed. The Washington Post went even further, suggesting Steele’s assistance to the IG might “undermine Trumpworld’s alt-narrative” that the Russia-collusion investigation was flawed.

For sure, Steele may have valuable information to aid Justice’s internal affairs probe into misconduct during the 2016 Russian election probe. His dossier alleging a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Moscow ultimately was disproven, but not before his intelligence was used to secure a surveillance warrant targeting the Trump campaign in the final days of the 2016 election.

Investigators are trying to ascertain what the British intelligence operative told the FBI about his sources, his relations to the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign, his hatred for Donald Trump, his Election Day deadline to get his information public and his leaking to media outlets before agents used his dossier to justify a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant to spy on ex-Trump campaign adviser Carter Page.

There is evidence Steele told the DOJ in July, and the State Department in October, about all of these flaws in his work, and that State officials even detected blatant inaccuracies in his intelligence. If so, all of that information should have been flagged by the FBI as potentially derogatory information weighing against Steele’s use as a source for the FISA warrant.

But lest anyone be tempted to think Steele’s 2016 dossier is about to be mysteriously revived as credible, consider this: Over months of work, FBI agents painstakingly researched every claim Steele made about Trump’s possible collusion with Russia, and assembled their findings into a spreadsheet-like document.

The over-under isn’t flattering to Steele.

Multiple sources familiar with the FBI spreadsheet tell me the vast majority of Steele’s claims were deemed to be wrong, or could not be corroborated even with the most awesome tools available to the U.S. intelligence community. One source estimated the spreadsheet found upwards of 90 percent of the dossier’s claims to be either wrong, non-verifiable or open-source intelligence found with a Google search.

In other words, it was mostly useless.

“The spreadsheet was a sea of blanks, meaning most claims couldn’t be corroborated, and those things that were found in classified intelligence suggested Steele’s intelligence was partly or totally inaccurate on several claims,” one source told me.

The FBI declined comment when asked about the spreadsheet.

The FBI’s final assessment was driven by many findings contained in classified footnotes at the bottom of the spreadsheet. But it was also informed by an agent’s interview, in early 2017, with a Russian that Steele claimed was one of his main providers of intelligence, according to my sources.

The FBI came to suspect that the Russian misled Steele, either intentionally or through exaggeration, the sources said.

The spreadsheet and a subsequent report by special prosecutor Robert Mueller show just how far off the seminal claims in the Steele dossier turned out to be.

For example, U.S. intelligence found no evidence that Carter Page, during a trip to Moscow in July 2016, secretly met with two associates of Vladimir Putin — Rosneft oil executive Igor Sechin and senior government official Igor Divyekin — as part of the effort to collude with the Trump campaign, as Steele reported.

Page did meet with a lower-level Rosneft official, and shook hands with a Russian deputy prime minister, the FBI found, but it was a far cry from the tale that Steele’s dossier spun.

Likewise, Steele claimed that Sechin had offered Page a hefty finder’s fee if he could get Trump to help lift sanctions on Moscow: “a 19 percent (privatized) stake in Rosneft in return.”

That offer, worth billions of dollars, was never substantiated and was deemed by some in U.S. intelligence to be preposterous.

The inaccuracy of Steele’s intelligence on Page is at the heart of the IG investigation specifically because the FBI represented to the FISA court that the intelligence on Page was verified and strong enough to support the FISA warrant. It was, in the end, not verified.

Another knockdown of the dossier occurred when U.S. intelligence determined former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen was not in Prague in the summer of 2016 when Steele claimed he was meeting with Russians to coordinate a hijacking of the election, the sources said.

Steele’s theory about who in the Trump campaign might be conspiring with Russia kept evolving from Page to Cohen to former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. None of those theories checked out in the end, as the Mueller report showed.

Again, Steele’s intelligence was wrong or unverifiable.

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1 comment:


What's fascinating are the comments - a brief perusal shows utter unwillingness to let it go.

These people are convinced - utterly convinced - that Hillary's defeat could not have been anything but Russia helping Trump.